Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reading Wonderland

This scene thrills me more than maybe it should, but there it is. Eliza has not had any interest in reading, almost ever. This doesn't mean she won't give it a go now and then, mostly when "playing school", but when Dan or I ask her to read something or sound out a word or two in the book we're reading aloud, she balks. She thrashes. She shrieks, "I asked you to read, not to have ME READ!" I have suspected for a while now that she actually has more ability than she will let on, but I have a couple of theories as to why she has been so, shall we say, hesitant. One is that this kid loves contact. Loves time together. If she learned to read, would she still be read to (resounding yes from us)? I remember her actually articulating this at one point early on, when she was five or so. She declared, "I am not going to learn to read. I want to be read to." Another theory is that she loves to dream and draw while listening to stories. We are heavily into books on tape right now and the best scenario has the three of us sitting at the kitchen table, drawing, laughing, listening, discussing. (This does not always happen. Eliza has recently found The Spiderwick Chronicles and the first Harry Potter on tape, both of which are much too scary for Anika, so she listens to these up in her room. We miss her.)

The third theory I came up with more recently was this: she wasn't reading because she wasn't being taught to read. I offer reading in a variety of ways - we play games, but we don't call it reading (Peggy Kaye's Games for Reading has been so valuable); I choose books that the girls find funny and are engaging and repetitive (Mo Willems has some great goofy books about Pig and Elephant) - they are both bound to jump in to read the next silly line. We make signs, we write notes, we read notes. Dan and I talked about some learning goals for the year - which translates into more "offering goals" for me, really - and a big one was to find creative ways to work reading into our days. Even so, at some point I realized that there were a few things that, not being in school, Eliza was assuming she wasn't going to learn. This realization came like a blow to my gut. If she thought she wasn't going to learn something because she wasn't in school, was she also assuming we didn't think she was smart enough/worthy of being taught those valuable things? She hasn't ever expressed it that way, but we have since had many conversations about the myriad of ways that a person can learn. At the beginning of the fall I again offered to teach her reading, and she again said she was fine, would learn it her own way, not interested. The other morning (was it just yesterday??), I asked again over breakfast - casually - something like, "hey, what would you think of adding a little reading to our days? like our math work?" She wanted to know what that would look like, so I described some workbook pages I had in mind, to practice certain tricks of reading, and of course sitting together to practice reading. She decided that she would just find a book at the library and read it, instead of lessons. So, she did. We went to the library before choir, she found an early reader chapter book, and by the end of the day she had worked her way through the first 11-page chapter. This is like the reading equivalent of going from 0 to 60 mph in one second for us. She found the focus, committed to working out all the words she didn't know, is starting to recognize the ridiculous words (like "know"!), and is So. Stinkin. Happy.

"I can read! Can you believe it? Your oldest child - Mom, I am your first baby, and I can read!"

It is slow, but she sticks with it and the wonder of it all is not lost on her. In fact, she paused during this epiphany to exclaim, "Mom, the library is going to be like a Wonderland to me!"

Oh, yes it is!


alissa said...

halle-flippin'-lujah. i am so glad that she is joining the club! welcome, little reader! you'll have to give us all lots of suggestions of books for christmas!!! (and for now- i know you know poppleton and henry and mudge. did you guys read the golly sisters, too? we loved them.)
'k. love you!!!!

slim pickins said...

oh yes, the golly sister are in the pile...i think she'll read that next!

Merry said...

Hooray!!A whole new world has opened up to that glorious little girl!!It sure doesn't help that we all LOVE reading more than anything and we want our kids to love it just as much.This is like learning to walk - Eliza will only fall in love with books faster and faster.Librarian, look out!!!! Here she comes!!

Stacy (Mama-Om) said...

oh, the last lines made me cry!!